Holden Street Theatres
Until 04 Mar 2017

Review by Jamie Wright

As Essential Theatre‘s Artistic Directors – Amanda LaBonte and Sophie Lampel – point out in the program notes: "...on average there is only one female role to every four male roles in the canon of Shakespeare's works". To remedy this the company has taken “Julius Caesar” and made two significant decisions: firstly, to pare the script down to its bare bones, with the running time (sans interval) a taut 80 minutes with only six actors; and secondly to have all of the roles played by women – and portraying the characters as women.

The result, then, is a subtly different version of Shakespeare’s tragedy of the betrayal of the great military leader of Rome by those he considered friends.

The cut-down version, directed by Fleur Kilpatrick, is fast-paced; at times too much so, with some of the dialogue being delivered too quickly to be properly appreciated. And while all of the cast – Leah Filley, Alex Aldrich, Amanda LaBonte, Helen Hopkins, Sophie Lampel and Devon Lang Wilton - all have good moments (Lampel does well with Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech; as does Filley as Lucius) there are other times when there doesn’t seem to be much underlying the speeches, and they come across as rushed.

So, while it is an interesting concept and they get a lot right, it falls short in other aspects. However, it’s still a good way to see “Julius Caesar” – which isn’t produced all that often – as a source for some food for thought and in a bare essentials format.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)